By Tim Cox
Two Mercer County communities will receive a total of $100,000 of $500,000 in Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR) public recreation grants.
Mendon and Franklin Township will each receive $50,000 grant awards that call for an equal amount of money as a local match. Both communities have plans in place to avoid spending $50,000 in cash from their respective coffers, said Ron Puthoff, a grant consultant who worked on both grant applications.
Mendon's grant would be used to build a 3,000-foot, winding, looped path through approximately 10 acres of the former Parkway school grounds in that town. The asphalt trail would be the first piece of an estimated $4 million plan to develop a park and community building on the former school site.
The Parkway school district has consolidated its buildings in Rockford, Willshire and Mendon into a new recently opened facility in Rockford. District officials plan to demolish the Mendon school building and then transfer ownership of the site to the town. A citizens committee has been working on the park plan for more than a year in anticipation of the school grounds being vacated.
A preliminary design shows a park with the existing ball diamonds and a number of other features. Other proposed projects include a concession stand, shelterhouse, , horseshoe pits, basketball, tennis and volleyball courts, restrooms and a truck and tractor pull track. A proposed community building would anchor the site. Officials plan to use the appraised value of the school land as its match, Puthoff said. The value could end up being high enough that the town could use it to secure even more ODNR funding next year, he said.
Franklin Township officials plan to continue their aggressive campaign to set aside tracts of land as green space. The ODNR grant would be used toward the purchase of 9.5 acres of land in the township, Puthoff said. Township officials have not yet decided exactly what tract of land they will buy, he said.
"That hasn't been determined yet and they also have some other grants pending," Puthoff said of the township's project.
The additional green space would bring the township's total to nearly 100 acres of land protected from development, Puthoff said.
ODNR officials announced the grant awards this week. The money comes from the federal Land and Water Conservation Fund, according to an ODNR news release.
"These grants help communities seeking to improve or increase recreational opportunities for their residents," ODNR Director Sam Speck said in the news release. "Local parks, trails, pools and other facilities that many Ohioans enjoy today were made possible through the federal program."